By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that any act of hooliganism hiding behind lawful and peaceful protests would be dealt with decisively, to ensure peace and stability in the country.
The president gave the warning when he virtually declared open the Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference 2020 in Abuja on Monday.
Buhari commended the Nigerian Armed Forces for their efforts at swiftly restoring law and order in various states during the large-scale criminality that ensued in the wake of the #ENDSARS protests.
He reiterated federal government’s commitment to the rights of citizens to embark on peaceful protests responsibly and in accordance with the laws of the land.
The president recalled that the #ENDSARS protests were sadly hijacked by hooligans to cause wanton damage to lives and property in many cities across the country.
Buhari described 2020 as a very challenging year, citing the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on almost every aspect of national life.
”In spite of this, I am pleased to note that the Army remained resolute in the discharge of its Constitutional roles.
”The Army’s support of civil authorities in the management of the COVID-19 Pandemic is a case in point.
”Also, the peaceful elections conducted in Edo and Ondo States would not have been achieved without the high level of professionalism displayed by all security agencies, including the Army,” he said.
The president commended the Army for its unwavering commitment towards curtailing the activities of insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and other violent criminals through ongoing exercises and operations in different parts of the country.
Notably, he said, was the Exercise SAHEL SANITY launched a few months ago in the North West states to rid the Katsina-Zamfara corridor of marauding bandits which had recorded commendable progress.
”I have also been briefed about the tremendous successes that have been achieved by troops during the ongoing Operation FIRE BALL in the North East.
”I charge you all to sustain these efforts until the full restoration of peace and security in the nation is achieved,” he added.
According to the president, the conference provides an avenue for the leadership of the Army to re-assess its preparedness and operational readiness in carrying out its constitutional roles.
Buhari also used the occasion to pay tribute to men and women in uniform who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the defence and security of the nation, commiserating with their families, comrades and friends.
”As we pray for the repose of their souls, we must strengthen our collective resolve to address those issues that will make every part of our country a safe and secure place to live and carry out our normal business,” he said.
He pledged that his administration would not relent in its efforts to take adequate care of families of fallen heroes who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the fight against insurgency and other forms of crimes across the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the president, at the conference, inaugurated the Housing scheme for Next of Kin of personnel of the Nigerian Army killed in action.
He said: ”It is in line with this that the Army, as part of its welfare initiative and in line with the Federal Government’s housing programme, is undertaking the Housing Scheme for families and next of kins of troops that were killed in action in the fight against insurgency and other criminalities in the country.
”I believe this initiative will act as a huge morale booster to the troops on the frontlines as well as project the Army in good light.
”On our part, I assure you that this administration will continue to do all within available resources to provide for your operational and welfare needs.”
Buhari said he had been briefed that some of the major capabilities procured for the Army would soon be inducted into the various theatres of operations.
He, therefore, urged the personnel to “make judicious use of these capabilities, even as we await the arrival of others currently pending shipment to the country’’.
On the choice of the theme of the annual conference, Buhari noted that “it is only through human capacity development that any institution can attain the level of professionalism needed to effectively and efficiently carry out its constitutional roles’’.
The president, therefore, congratulated the Army on holding the conference at the magnificent edifice housing the Army’s Cyber Warfare Command with its state-of-the-art Cyberwarfare Operations Centre.
According to him, this shows that the Army is alive to the changing nature of warfare which is gradually moving into the cyber domain.
”By the same token, I commend the visionary leadership that has worked assiduously to emplace this vital capability that will fill an existing gap in our nation’s security and defence architecture.
”This and other numerous infrastructural projects that have been embarked upon in recent times by the leadership of the Army has shown good utilisation of scarce national resources,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, had appreciated the president for always approving funds for operations of the military in the country, and assured him that all resources would be judiciously utilised.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, in a remark, declared that the Nigeria Army was well poised to confront all security challenges, which include cyber threats.(NAN)